A council health watchdog has written to the Government to criticise NHS England’s ‘failure to consult’ with 2,500 patients before a GP surgery was closed.
Sandwell Council’s health scrutiny board has written to the Secretary of State for Health Jeremy Hunt to criticise what it calls the ‘failure to consult’ with the patients of Malling Health in Wednesbury before it closed last Friday.
Chiefs say in their letter they first warned NHS England they needed the council-owned land back, where the surgery was sited, so they could begin work on a leisure centre next door last June.
Bosses then claim NHS England decided not to renew the surgery’s contract in January but did not inform them.
Councillor Paul Sandars, who chairs the board, wrote: “The Scrutiny Board was not informed of this decision but found out by chance from local ward councillors. In addition to this there was also a failure to engage patients in the decision making process.
“By the time Scrutiny discovered the proposal, effectively it was too late for other options, including the relocation of the premises, to be considered.
“The relocation of the practice would not have been feasible without the three month lead in time required for IT purposes.
“The Scrutiny Board wanted to ensure that the best possible outcomes were achieved for local residents who were patients of the surgery, the achievement of this was impeded by a lack of consultation on proposals to close the surgery.
“The lack of consultation also caused a considerable amount of upset to patients at the practice.”
A petition with more than 800 signatures calling for the centre to remain open was delivered to Parliament last month.
Both the Malling Health and The Spires health centre were due to have new premises as part of a £9 million new health scheme due to be built in High Bullen.
The centre, originally known as the ‘2010 project’ because of when it was due for completion, has not yet begun, though NHS England has insisted it is ‘committed in principle’ to the scheme.